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Creffield and the Holy Rollers made page one headlines from 1903 to 1907. When I was researching Holy Rollers: Murder and Madness in Oregon’s Love Cult I spent months transcribing hundreds of articles. I’m not sure why I was so obsessive. Maybe it was my way of immersing my self into a cult without joining one. Anyway, I’m posting them all for those who are really interested in the story, or are interested the history of journalism, or are interested in how a scandalous story played out in the "media" in a by gone era. Since I no doubt made typos and unconsciously corrected papers' typos, these web pages should not be cited in anything serious (e.g. your dissertation). For such projects they should only be used as starting points and you should refer to the original sources. If you want a shorter version of the story, buy my book. Enjoy.

July 18, 1906: Mrs. Starr’s Life Threatened


Starr HouseSeattle Daily Times 7/18/1906 p9

Mrs. Starr’s Life Threatened

Letter Sent to Married Sister of George Mitchell, Who Rejoiced When He Was Shot Down in Seattle Depot.

Late Events Have Completely Wrecked Her Nervous System and Her Manner Is Now That of One in Deadly Fear.


The Times Special Service


PORTLAND, Ore., Wednesday, July 18.-- Another chapter has developed in the sensational Creffield-Mitchell case, and now Mrs. Burgess E. Starr bids for the leading role. It has just come to light that Mrs. Starr, who announced herself as pleased at the death of George Mitchell is the recipient of a letter from an unknown party or parties in which her life is threatened. Immediately upon receipt of the letter Mrs. Starr turned the letter over to Attorney Manning for action, but the district attorney took no action and the letter will be given to Chief of Police Gritzmacher today.




The letter was short, but decidedly to the point. It was addressed Mrs. B. E. Starr” and signed indistinctly “G. C. G.” (sic) Its general tenor was that the author, and others, was determined, in view of Mrs. Starr’s declared pleasure at the death of Mitchell, to kill her. when asked concerning the phrasing of the letter Mt. Starr was very hazy. He only remembered that it was couched in no uncertain terms and said particularly:

I, or if I can’t some member will get you.”


The husband of the woman addressed was surprised and entirely in the dark as to who the author might be or what his motives were. The postmark was Station B, which is located in Albina, but other than that there was absolutely no clue on the envelope or letter sheet by which the writer might be detected. The handwriting was smooth and legible and an attempt had been made to make the signature as indistinct as possible.




“I gave the letter to Fred Mitchell,” said Starr when requested to deliver the threatening letter for publication. “I had intended long before to give it into the hands of the police, and shall do so as soon as I can see Fred. The letter was in good language and, although it uses no improper language and is not all illiterate, it leaves no doubt of the author’s meaning. I cannot understand why it was sent or who could have written it.”


Mrs. Starr appears deeply affected by the receipt of the threatening epistle. She trembled when speaking of it, and her whole manner was that of a person in deadly fear of her life. The late events seem also to have completely wrecked her nervous system.





Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/18/1906 p3

Mrs. Starr Receives Threatening Letter


Daily Oregon Statesman (Salem) 7/19/1906 p4

Fears For Her Life

Mrs. Burgess E. Starr, Sister of Late George Mitchell Receives Threatening Letter.


Angered because Mrs. Burgess E. Starr expressed pleasure because her brother, George Mitchell, had been killed by their sister, Esther Mitchell, some person has sent Mrs. Starr a letter threatening her life. she is in terror lest the threat be executed, it is said. The letter has been shown by Starr to nobody except District Attorney Manning and his deputies, and no request has been made of the police for protection.


The letter was dropped into a box at Albina. It bears the postmark Station B. It was written last Friday and was received by Mrs. Starr that night and carried to the District Attorney next day. Fred Mitchell is said to have it in his possession.


The letter for the most part is legible, but the initials forming the signature were cramped and are not easily deciphered. A deputy in Mr. Manning’s office stated this morning that he read them as “G. C. F.” (sic)


In introduction the letter reads in effect that because Mrs. Starr expressed pleasure when she heard of the murder of her brother she is to be killed. The writer says that if she thinks so much of Creffield she may join him in hell.


“I will get you is some other member does not,” is one of the assertions in the missive.



Seattle Star 7/18/1906 p1

Threaten His Sister’s Life

Friends Of George Mitchell Send A Letter To Mrs. Starr, Demanding Change In Her Attitude Over The Murder.


PORTLAND, July 18.--Mrs. Burgess E. Starr, sister of George Mitchell, has received an anonymous letter threatening her life if she persists in maintaining her attitude of approval of the killing of her brother. The letter stated that a club had been formed to meet out punishment to her and other Holy Rollers of her type. District Attorney Manning intends to make a thorough investigation.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/18/1906 p1

May Take Esther Mitchell South

Attorneys Point to Law of 1905 for Removal of Non-Resident Insane

Rid State Of Expense

Savings of $5,000 May Be Effected By Proceedings on Insanity Charge


Attorneys of Seattle who have become interested in the Mitchell case have been raising the question as to the necessity of putting King County to the expense of having another, possibly two more, trials of the prisoners from Oregon, Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield, on the charge of murder. That there is a method by which King County and the state of Washington may, at very little cost, rid itself of an expense bill approximating $5,000 in the trials of two prisoners, one of whom resides in Corvallis and the other in Portland or Newberg, Or., is believed by some, who seek the solution in the 138th chapter of the Statutes of Washington, 1905. This act refers to the transportation to their homes of non-resident insane persons, and reads:

Whenever any person shall be found by the superior court in any county to be insane, and such person has no legal residence within this state, such person shall be sent, at the expense of the state, to the place where such person belongs in every case where such place of residence can be ascertained. And it shall be the duty of the superior court at the time of the inquest to ascertain the place where such person belongs, when the same can be conveniently done. The sheriff of the county shall convey such person to the place where he belongs.




The trial of George Mitchell, it is estimated, cost King County about $2,500. for the trial of Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Maud Creffield, it is stated, in all probability there would be as many Oregon witnesses required. The women have the right to be tried separately, if one of them should so elect, thus practically doubling expenses.


The defense of the women, in spite of their own assertions, would, is believed, be insanity. If they are really insane, the fact can legally be ascertained by an insanity commission, which may be named at any time.


If there should be a commission appointed and it should find the women insane, the law entitles them to be taken to their Oregon homes. On the other hand, if the commissioners, composed of experts on alienism, should find the prisoners sane, the testimony of its members would be admissible at the murder trial.


It was stated at the prosecuting attorney’s office that the informations against Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield were ready for filing yesterday afternoon. They were not placed on record, but will probably be submitted to the county clerk this morning.




In Oregon much sympathy is expressed for those unwillingly connected with “holy rollerism,” and particularly for O. V. Hurt, Mrs. Creffield’s father. On this subject the Morning Oregonian, of Portland, says editorially:

Any dissatisfied and unhappy citizen who thinks that he has a rough time in his daily life, and that the world doesn’t treat him well, should pause long enough to consider the case of Mr. O. V. Hurt, of Corvallis. It is not necessary to enter into details as to the recent history of the Hurt family, for everyone knows it; and everyone feels that few men have deserved more and got less from the hands of fortune and providence, than Mr. Hurt. Yet he has complained not at all, but has met each new vicissitude with remarkable fortitude and rare devotion to his high conception of his duty. The members of his family have thought little of Mr. Hurt, but they have received much from him--far more than many another husband and father in like circumstances could or would have given. Now he is going to see that his misguided daughter, who abandoned and reviled him, has proper legal defense in her trial at Seattle. It is a fine thing for him to do--just as his entire conduct throughout his terrible trouble, or series of troubles, has been something really beautiful and noble.



Seattle Star 7/18/1906 p1

Esther Mitchell to Have Defense

Portland Attorney And Local Firm Will Look After Her Interests--Morris & Shipley For Mrs. Creffield.


Esther Mitchell, when she is brought to trial, will be defended. She announced this morning that the services of Alfred Clarke, of Portland, Ore., and the law firm of Baxter & Wilson, of this city, had been secured to defend her. Mrs. Creffield has not yet been provided with defense, but Messrs. Morris and Shipley announced this morning that throughout the preliminary proceedings they would represent her.


Mr. Morris, received another letter from O. V. Hurt this morning, also a telegram, in which the old gentleman states that he will abide implicitly by the advice which Morris and Shipley will give him from time to time, prior to the coming trial.


Mr. Morris visited with the two women this morning to consult them regarding their defense. Mrs. Creffield was astonished to see the man who had defended the boy whom she hated, and greeted the attorney by asking him if he was not really disgusted with her. Mr. Morris stated that he did not feel that way, but had come to extend his sympathy.




“I believe that the two women are hopelessly insane,” remarked the lawyer, “although it would not do to tell them. Whether they will be taken back to Portland, I do not know.”

Holy Rollers

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Newspaper Articles about Creffield & the Holy Rollers

1897-1899:Local Lore, News Of Corvallis and Vicinity Told in Brief B. C. (Before Creffield)

1900:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1901:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1902:Holy Rollers' Lives Creffield

January 18, 1903: Fred Mitchell Attempts Suicide

June 10, 1903: Salvation Army Major Deserts and Joins the Holy Rollers

October 31, 1903: Zealot Worshipers Burn Furniture, Dogs & Other Things

November 2, 1903: Fanatics In Court

November 3, 1903: Had Promise of Tar and Feathers

November 4, 1903: Flight of The Apostles

November 5, 1903: Once-Esteemed Family No Longer Has the Sympathy of the Community

November 6, 1903: Rollers Take On New Life

November 7, 1903: Is Creffield Back?

November 11, 1903: “Apostle” Creffield Still Under Cover

November 24, 1903: Girl of Sixteen Almost Insane

November 25, 1903: In Pursuit of Creffield

November 27, 1903: The Lord May Starve Them

November 28, 1903: Holy Rollers Receive Unwilling Baptism

December 7, 1903: Demented Woman Suffers

December 8, 1903: Hurt Seen In Portland

December 11, 1903:Holy Rollers Roll Into Eugene Church

December 21, 1903:Holy Roller Victim Worse

December 22, 1903: Linn County Holy Rollers

December 23, 1903: Is Crazy Now

December 29, 1903: Holy Rollers’ Not Liked at the Dalles

December 30, 1903: Owner of Property Refuses to Permit Séances

January 6, 1904: Holy Rollers Tarred and Feathered

January 9, 1904: Their Welcome Departure

January 12, 1904: Editorial Comment: “Put yourselves in our place!”

January 13, 1904: Where Brooks Went

January 19, 1904: Our Brainy Contemporaries

January 25: Holy Rollers’ in Hobo Camp Life

February 1, 1904: Camp In Linn County Is Broken Up By Officers

February 6, 1904: How They Tell The Holy Roller Story In Far Off Scotland

February 11, 1904: Medium Mystify Corvallis People

March 1, 1904: The “Holy Rollers” Offend Humanity

March 16, 1904: Holy Rollers to Be Arrested on Serious Charge

March 17, 1904: Where is the Apostle?

March 21, 1904: Reward For Creffield's Capture

March 23, 1904: Fugitive Creffield

March 28, 1904: Reward is Offered

April 1, 1904: “Holy Roller” Chief Very Badly Wanted

April 18, 1904: Holy Roller High Priest Is Seen

April 29, 1904: Urania Seeley is Arrested

May 2, 1904: Frank & Mollie Hurt are Committed to the Asylum

May 4, 1904: Maud Hurt-Creffield & Sophia Hartley are Committed

May 7, 1904: Attie Bray &Rose Seeley are Committed

June 11, 1904: Attie Bray Escapes

June 17, 1904: Mae Hurt is Committed

June 29, 1904: Sarah Hurt is Committed

July 22, 1904: Holy Roller on Death Row

July 29, 1904: Creffield Found Half Dead Under Hurt’s House

July, 30 1904: Armed Guards Protect Creffield

July, 31 1904: Corvallis Could Not Raise a Mob

August 1, 1904: Creffield says, "I am Elijah"

August 2, 1904: Creffield Does Not Dislike Prison

August 4, 1904: Creffield Says He Is Entirely Purified

August 5, 1904: He Does Nothing Unless Directed by God

August 6, 1904: Creffield Believes in Satan and Eternal Punishment

August 9, 1904: No Flowers For Creffield

August 13, 1904; The Holy Rollers And The Man Who Made Them

August 16, 1904; Creffield Reward Will Be Returned

August 19, 1904: Followers in Asylum Stick To Faith

August 23, 1904: Creffield Will Fight His Own Case

August 28, 1904: Creffield Destroys His Revelations

September 16, 1904: Creffield is Guilty

September 21, 1904: Holy Rollers go in and Out of the Asylum

March 22, 1905: Prison Life Of Joshua Creffield>

April 8, 1905: Life In Corvallis Returns to Normal

December 12, 1905: Frank & Mollie Hurt Have a Baby Girl

April 24, 1906: Creffield Establishes a Camp Near Waldport

April 30, 1906: Donna Starr Leaves Children to go to Her Spiritual Love, Joshua Creffield

May 1, 1906: Creffield Takes Credit for The San Francisco Earthquake

May 3, 1906: Creffield In Fear Of His Life

May 7, 1906: Holy Roller Shot Down Like A Dog

May 8, 1906: Medal to Be Given Mitchell in Recognition of His Killing

May 9, 1906: Oregon Prosecutor Would Aid Mitchell

May 10, 1906: Shows No Emotion At Husband’s Grave

May 11, 1906: Bail Is All Ready

May 12, 1906: Mitchell Denied Bail

May 13, 1906: Creffield is Due To Rise Today

May 14, 1906: Creffield’s Widow Watches At Grave

May 15, 1906: Corvallis Starts Fund for Defense of Mitchell

May 16, 1906: Holy Rollers Starving Near Heceta Head

May 17, 1906: Public Sentiment Favors Mitchell

May 18, 1906: Creffield Railed in Vermont

May 19, 1906: Mitchell to Enter Plea of Not Guilty

May 27, 1906: Joshua Says Not to Worry

June 1, 1906: Morris Claims Mitchell Rid World of a Fiend

June 16, 1906: Prosecution and Defense are Making Last Preparations

June 19, 1906: Many Witnesses For Mitchell

June 24, 1906: Trial Will Cost Taxpayers Ten Thousand Dollars

June 25, 1906: George Mitchell on Trial For His Life

June 26, 1906: Mitchell Jury is Selected With Care

June 27, 1906: Mitchell Trial Held Up By Squabble

June 28, 1906:  Jury is Secured to Try Mitchell

June 29, 1906: Trial is Now on in Earnest

June 30, 1906: Mrs. Creffield's Testimony

July 1, 1906: Creffield’s Ghost Controls His Flock

July 2, 1906:  Esther Mitchell on Stand Refuses To Aid Brother

July 3, 1906: Hurt Tells of Debauched Wife and Debased Sisters

July 4, 1906: Creffield’s Unsavory Record Presented to the Jury

July 5, 1906: Expected Admissibility of Evidence Will Arouse Controversy

July 6, 1906: Others Testify They Wished to Kill Creffield

July 7, 1906: Insanity Expert on the Witness Stand

July 8, 1906: Plan To Revive Holy Rollerism

July 9, 1906: Killing of Judge Emory May Effect Mitchell

July 10, 1906: Mitchell Case Goes To Jury

July 11, 1906: Not Guilty

July 12, 1906: General Rejoicing at Mitchell’s Acquittal

July 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Kills Her Brother!

July 14, 1906: Mitchell Boys Are Done With Esther

July 15, 1906: Hurt Will Come to Aid of His Daughter

July 16: 1906: Will Mortgage His Home for Daughter

July 17, 1906: Let’s Think When We Talk

July 18, 1906: Mrs. Starr’s Life Threatened

July 19, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Weeps in Jail

July 20, 1906: George Mitchell’s Attorney Offers Aid to Murderesses

July 21, 1906: Mitchell Boys to Stand by Esther

July 22, 1906: Hurt Thinks Both Women Are Insane

July 23, 1906: Frater Favors a Commission of Alienists

July 24, 1906: Mackintosh Will Oppose Calling Commission

July 26, 1906: Is Reconciled to Holy Roller Wife

July 27, 1906: Holy Rollers Seek Home in Wyoming

July 28, 1906: Mitchell Juror is Insane

July 30, 1906: Esther Will Deny Committing Murder In The 1st Degree

July 31 1906: Esther Mitchell Says Not Guilty

August 1, 1906: Relatives to Help Esther Mitchell

August 4, 1906: Creffield Greatly Hurt True Religion

August 6, 1906: Mitchell Boys in Drunken Row

August 8, 1906: St. Louis Woman Coming to Convert “Rollers”

August 12, 1906: Esther Mitchell Close to Death from Typhoid

August 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Not Seriously Ill

September 1, 1906: Four Charged with First Degree Now in County Jail

September 10 1906: To Examine Minds of Slayers

September 12, 1906: Hurt Thinks His Daughter Insane

September 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Objects to Help

September 14, 1906: Women Not Agitated

September 15, 1906: Mrs. Creffield’s Trial Set for Next Month

September 17, 1906: Mrs. Creffield on Stand

September 18, 1906:  Maud Creffield Anxious to Hang

September 19, 1906: Are They Sane of Insane?

September 21, 1906: Both Women May Go Scott Free

September 22, 1906: Where is This Thing to End!

September 23, 1906: Murders Must Be Tried

September 24, 1906: Must Not Deport

September 25, 1906: Judge Frater is in Very Small Business

September 28, 1906: Insanity Board Not Paid

October 1, 1906: Holy Roller Woman Dies While in Trance

November 9, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Said to Be in Very Nervous State

November 17, 1906: Maud Creffield Dies in the County Jail

November 18, 1906: Death May End a Hypnotic Spell

November 19, 1906: Reviews Findings in Examination of Brain

November 20, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Killed Herself with Poison!

November 21, 1906: Poison Is Found In The Stomach Of Mrs. Creffield

November 22, 1906: Esther Says Maud Did Not Kill Herself

December 4, 1906: Washing Dirty Linen

December 17, 1906: Sad Christmas For Holy Roller

February 21, 1907: Esther Mitchell Goes to Asylum

April 30, 1907: Esther Mitchell Still Believe in Creffield & His Return

April 6, 1909: Esther Mitchell Leaves Asylum

April 9, 1914: Esther Mitchell Marries James Berry

August 3, 1914: Esther Mitchell is Dead By Own Hand

1953 Stewart Holbrook's Murder Without Tears

1951 Startling Detective Magazine: Nemesis of the Nudist High Priest

A List of All the Articles


Sample Chapters from Holy Rollers:
Murder and Madness in Oregon's Love Cult


The Cast of Characters
Photos and Bios of the Holy Rollers


Holy Rollers' Asylum Commitment Papers


Info for Book Groups

Book Reviews


1903 to 1907 Newspaper Articles About the Holy Rollers

1906 Editorial Calling for Gun Control
After Multiple Murders Involving the Holy Rollers

Stewart Holbrook Holy Rollers Article

Advertisements from 1893 to 1913


Oregon Insane Asylum
Where the Holy Rollers Were Committed

Creffield, Brainwashing & Thought Reform

Early Cases of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

1906 Autopsies Of Holy Rollers
Forensics Before CSI

Holy Roller Bizarre Divorce Decree
Hartley describes trying to kill his wife's lover


Comedians on Edmund Creffield

The Shadow Testament
A Play About The Holy Rollers

How the Fire Fell
A Movie About The Holy Rollers


Life in Corvallis in the early 1900s

Life in Waldport, OR in early 1900s

Heaven's Gate

Facts & Stats about 1906
And How The Holy Rollers Measured Up

Oregon State Penitentiary
Where Creffield Was Incarcerated


Info about Cults

Could you ever be lured into joining a cult?

Share your thoughts about, and experiences with, cults


Creffield's Preachings

Creffield Vs. Crefeld

The Salvation Army Opening Fire in 1886

Holy Roller Theology

Reverend Knapp's Bible Songs of Salvation & Victory
Songs Sung by the Holy Rollers


About the Authors

Theresa (T-) McCracken

Robert B. Blodgett

In addition to writing, McCracken is a cartoonist.

To see some of her 'toons, go to the Home of McHumor Cartoons mchumor.com

McCracken's Blog

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Theresa (T-) McCracken
890 North Bayview Loop
Waldport, Oregon 97394

(541) 563-3112


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